There are a lot of reasons one can feel like a stranger at family gatherings. I think the most common reason is because families tend to be strangers to each other. Some families drift over time or after the death of a grandparent. Others are just distant. I can't speak for everyone of course. Being strangers isn't what hurts you though: It's when they don't know you. It's a stab in the back when the people who held you as a baby cannot remember that you're just a bit too old for a necklace sized for a five year old child. By more than a decade.
This past Christmas Eve I saw him at a family gathering. We briefly acknowledged each others presence and got on to talking with others. The night was grand and eventually everyone began exchanging and opening presents. I was given lots of cards as well as a necklace sized for a five year old. I sat happily joking with a cousin and watching the little ones playing with their new toys. Then he walked up to me and smiled.
"You're the only one I bought a present for."
He gave me a large, heavy box wrapped up. When I opened it, I was taken back completely. He gave me a beautiful art set, contained in a large wooden case. It had five different types of pencil, pastels, woodless pencils and even a wooden model. It was gorgeous. No matter how full and perfect the beautiful set was, it was nothing compared to how full and perfect my heart felt.
He had left to talk with someone when I was unwrapping the gift. I promptly found him to thank. I went to give him a hug and said thank you. He asked if I liked it, I told him I loved it. He said good and nodded, going back to a conversation. I nodded and went back to my conversation.
It's not being strangers that hurts. It's been forgotten that hurts. To use a quote from a beloved film, "'Ohana means family, family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten," -Lilo and Stitch.